Every two years Global Canopy releases its Forest 500 report, which tracks the policies and performance of the top 350 most influential companies and 150 financial institutions with links to deforestation in operations, supply chains or investments. The latest findings show some, slow, progress. Out of 350, 109 of the companies with the greatest influence on or exposure to tropical deforestation risks in their supply chains don’t have any deforestation commitments for the commodities they source. Of the 100 companies with a deforestation commitment for the commodities, they source only half are monitoring their suppliers or sourcing regions in line with those commitments. For human rights, even though they are linked to deforestation, none of the companies assessed by Global Canopy meet the requirements for all human rights commitments alongside deforestation commitment for all the commodities to which they are exposed.
In terms of the financial institutions, only 16 have comprehensive commodity deforestation policies in place and 92 have no deforestation policy covering their lending and investments. Progress on human rights is also slow. Only 41 out of 150 have any free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) policies for at least one commodity to which they are exposed. In conclusion, Global Canopy calls for significant progress on commitments and policy by 2025, and a drive to convert promises into action.
PVH pays Haiti garment workers $1m compensation
After the sudden closure of a factory in Haiti in January 2022, over 1,100 garment workers will be given $1m to share, by PVH, which owns brands including Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger. The sum will cover missed severance pay, and pension contributions to workers, as well as the government pension fund. Most former workers will receive the equivalent of over six month’s wages, and some more than a year’s pay, after involvement by the Worker Rights Consortium lobby group.
The agreement was signed swiftly and without significant public pressure – with a spokesperson from PVH noting that “PVH is committed to being part of the solution, even if we bear no direct responsibility”. This is an increasingly accepted sentiment in the apparel sector – lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret stepped in to pay sacked workers in Thailand last year, taking responsibility for the actions of its suppliers.
Shein linked with forced labour
Three US senators have written to the CEO of Shein, an online fast fashion site, and China’s largest private online retailer, asking about the company’s ties to forced labour. The cross-party group of senators are seeking details about the company’s potential links to Xinjiang. Products from the region are banned for import into the US by federal law, due to its association with forced Uyghur labour. The congressional letter cites a Bloomberg report from November 2022 that had determined through laboratory testing that garments ordered from Shein last year were on two occasions made of cotton from Xinjiang.
Whilst Shein did not dispute the results, it claimed that it takes steps in each of its global markets to ensure that it complies with the local laws and regulations. The senators have demanded to know how the company ensures that none of the cotton it sends to the US has originated in Xinjiang.
Indonesia-Malaysia-EU deforestation talks
Indonesia and Malaysia have sent a joint delegation to Europe to discuss the impact of the bloc’s proposed deforestation laws on the palm oil sector. As the EU moves closer to approving the new regulation, Indonesia and Malaysia are signalling their opposition. Whilst Indonesia had suspended half of its palm oil export permits during Islamic festivities to ensure domestic supply, Malaysia has announced that it is considering retaliatory action through export cuts.
Previously the countries had accused the EU of protectionism in favour of uncompetitive EU farmers over smallholder farmers whose livelihoods they see as being threatened by the proposed regulations. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil has said that many smaller producers in Asia, Africa and Latin America may be forced to bear’ the consequences of the new regulation, as even those using sustainable means to produce palm oil would find it hard to comply with the EU’s standards.
PFAS found in Arctic ice
An Oxford University study has detected 26 types of PFAS, or forever chemicals, in the ice around Svalbard in Norway. The research has found that meltwater can carry a cocktail of contaminants into downstream ecosystems including Arctic fjords, impacting entire food webs from plankton to polar bears. The study has noted a “doubling up effect” on animals as climate changes and ice melts, in which animals are exposed to toxic manmade chemicals and changes to their habitat at the same time.
PFAS are a class of about 12,000 chemicals used to make thousands of consumer products heat and water resistant. They do not naturally break down, and have been linked to cancer, liver disease, kidney stress, foetal complications and other serious health problems. A proposal that would effectively ban the controversial class of chemical compounds in the EU has been published by the European Chemicals Agency, and new measures to restrict the chemicals in more than half a dozen US States will enter into effect during 2023.
Energy sector methane under fire
The headline from the International Energy Agency’s latest global methane tracker is a call on the oil and gas sector to act on cutting emissions, which reached levels only just below all-time records in 2022, despite international commitments for rapid cuts this decade made over the past few years. The IEA attributes one-third of the man-made rise in global temperatures to methane, which is of course a significantly more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
While agriculture is the greatest source of atmospheric methane, the IEA targets the 40% coming from the energy sector – 70% of which could be cut using existing technology such as leak detection and repair, and upgrading equipment. The IEA identifies other easy wins, such as the elimination of flaring and venting of methane, that can have significant impact. The value of capturing much of this gas can exceed the costs of the mitigating measures, the agency says.
Tabs go vegan
Indicating, perhaps, how diets are changing, students at the University of Cambridge, in the UK, have voted to back a move towards all vegan menus at the catering outlets serviced by the university. The Cambridge students’ union vote was backed by 72% of students who took part and mandates union representatives to work with the university to transition to fully plant-based menus in response to the climate and biodiversity crises. The student’s union motion does not apply to the university’s 31 colleges.